Founder buys back part of JJB business

By Kelly Macnamara,Press Association
Wednesday 25 March 2009 15:33

The survival hopes of JJB Sports were boosted today after founder Dave Whelan confirmed his purchase of the chain's fitness clubs business, and renamed Wigan FC's stadium with his own initials.

The deal will ease the pressure on the troubled retailer, which is saddled with around £60 million in debts. Mr Whelan, who set up the Wigan-based group in the 1970s but sold his stake in 2007, will rebrand the gyms as DW Sports

Mr Whelan's purchase of JJB's gyms business is part of a larger retail venture offering brand name sporting goods, equipment, footwear and apparel.

Mr Whelan, who is chairman of Wigan Athletic football team, also announced plans to rename the club's ground as the DW Stadium today.

"The JJB Stadium has made the town of Wigan known all over the world," he said. "We have had some famous days here at the stadium if you think of all the great games that have been hosted since 1999. Now we can look forward to a whole new era as the DW Stadium."

The name change will come into effect for next season.

Securing the sale of the 52 health clubs was vital to the future of JJB, which owes £60 million to lenders Barclays, HBOS and Kaupthing. It had been given a temporary breathing space on the loan that expired yesterday.

The company has warned of losses of up to £10 million for the year to the end of January, while its share price has plummeted 87 per cent in 12 months.

Chairman Sir David Jones, the former Next chief executive, has already seen JJB's footwear chains Qube and the Original Shoe Company go into administration with the loss of 400 jobs.

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